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Less than two weeks ago, amidst lots of food, party poppers and Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, my family and I celebrated the new year. I’m not sure where my neighbors obtained their military grade explosives, but it was an impressive show! 

Once my ears stopped ringing and my dogs stopped howling, all that was left of the New Year’s celebration was to go to bed. However, at 2am—as the war still raged a few blocks from me and I covered my head with my pillow—I began to think about why we love to celebrate the New Year’s holiday so much.

Pastor Trevor Van Laar

I don’t know about you, but at midnight on Dec. 31, it always feels like a relief to say goodbye to the last year. If I’m being honest, even if it’s been a great year, there’s always one or two things that I’m eager to leave behind. Projects that I’ve procrastinated on, dumb things I’ve said, angry moments I’ve had, people I’ve hurt, ways I’ve disappointed others… the list could go on. 

I think we celebrate New Year’s Eve because it represents a clean slate, a second chance, a new beginning! It serves as a tangible reminder of the chance to forgive myself and others and embrace change and growth. It makes my heart beat a bit faster to realize the opportunity I have to leave all my failings behind and become a better version of myself. 

But why are we so interested in a fresh start?

In the Bible, Jesus offers us an answer. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus recognizes a fact that was as true thousands of years ago as it is today: “In this world you will have tribulation.” Or, in other words, sometimes life will be tough, things will go wrong. 

But good news—Jesus Christ has overcome these difficulties and wants to provide us peace!

In the middle of the explosions and noise of late night New Year’s parties, this profound message speaks to the heart of the human experience and the compassion of Christ, acknowledging the inevitability of our shortcomings and mistakes while offering the reassurance of forgiveness and opportunity for a fresh start. 

So why do we love to celebrate the New Year holiday so much? Why do we gather with family and friends that we love, eat so much food, and make so much noise? Simply put, the turning of the calendar to a new year reminds us of our opportunity for a second chance at life. 

Moreover, the notion of second chances extends beyond personal realms. It underscores the importance of extending grace and compassion to others, fostering a culture of empathy and understanding. 

In a world marred by division and conflict, the principles found in scriptures advocate for reconciliation, kindness and the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. And who doesn’t want that?

Trevor Van Laar is a Pastor at Gilroy and San Martin Presbyterian Churches. He is a member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance and can be reached at [email protected].

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